College Basketball Recruiting: Stock Watch for the Top Prospects in 2015 Class
With the opening of spring AAU action, college basketball recruiting begins in earnest to set its sights on the class of 2015. Many of the top stars among next fall's high school seniors are getting their first real taste of the spotlight after deferring to older leaders on powerhouse rosters in the past.
One youngster who's making the most of his chances is Wisconsin product Diamond Stone. The massive center hung 36 points on one unlucky opponent at the Jayhawk Classic, staking his claim to the top ranking in a class filled with low-post talent.
Read on for more on Stone and the rest of the 20 most anticipated prospects in the college class of 2015, with an eye to how recent developments have affected the buzz surrounding them.
20. Montaque Gill-Caesar
Montaque Gill-Caesar is a 6'6" dunk artist with the potential to be the centerpiece of a college offense. One prerequisite for that job, though, is the ability to keep a bad scoring night from hurting your performance elsewhere.
Gill-Caesar couldn't manage that feat in Sacramento on Saturday, where he posted just four points and one rebound in his worst game of three (so far) this spring.
When he's on track, though, the CIA Bounce standout's impressive shooting range and leaping ability are a dangerous combination, as he showed in a 16-point performance earlier in the day against Team Final.
19. Chance Comanche
One of the early indications from this year’s Jayhawk Invitational is that Chance Comanche isn’t quite ready to carry a team against elite competition.
The towering center’s Earl Watson Elite squad dropped its first two games of the tournament, including a painful 65-46 drubbing on Saturday.
That said, the slender Comanche isn’t the kind of low-post grinder teams are traditionally built around, preferring to face up and beat slower defenders off the dribble. The same agility that fuels that approach has also made him an impressive shot-blocker.
18. Derrick Jones
High-flying SF Derrick Jones is one of the top recruiting targets at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest, and coaches aren’t lacking in chances to see him.
Jones has excelled in two different age groups for We R 1’s AAU squads, scoring and rebounding in bunches for both the under-16 and under-17 teams.
All that action will help smooth some of the rough edges in his game, and he has plenty of time yet to develop.
The Philadelphia native has mostly drawn interest from nearby programs so far, but don’t be surprised if he attracts offers from around the country by the time he settles on a school.
17. Jalen Brunson
A heady point guard with three-point range, Jalen Brunson has a lot to offer to any college team. None, however, stand to gain more from landing the Lincolnshire (IL) standout than Illinois.
John Groce’s rebuilding project with the Illini hasn’t gained much traction in recruiting circles, but signing Brunson would change that outlook fast.
Accordingly, Groce is going hard after the son of former NBA journeyman Rick Brunson, who could easily become a more productive player than his dad was.
16. Brandon Ingram
A fine rebounder from the small forward spot, Brandon Ingram doesn't attract much attention on that note—too much of it is already being paid to his scoring.
As he showed in dominating the Norman Parker Showcase with the Stackhouse Elite, he's the kind of wing around whom an offense can be built.
Ingram’s 6’7” frame and perimeter marksmanship are a great fit for the next level, and he can play a little defense in the bargain. Still, at just 180 pounds, he could definitely stand to add some muscle between now and his senior season.
15. Luke Kennard
When MaxPreps named its Junior All-Americans last week, four of the five were players who show up in the class’ top 10 from any scouting service you care to check. The lone surprise on the list was super-scorer Luke Kennard, Ohio’s Mr. Basketball last season.
The 6’4” Kennard, who’s taking his searing three-point shot to Duke in 2015, has remarkable polish for his age. He’s also more of a leader than many 2-guards, unsurprisingly considering he quarterbacks Franklin High’s football team.
Stock: Spiraling up
14. Thomas Bryant
Playing for mighty Huntington Prep, Thomas Bryant sometimes got lost in the shuffle last season. In the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals, though, he helped anchor the Irish’s only win with a team-high 14 points against La Lumiere.
Now that Jalen Lindsey and JaQuan Lyle are off to the college ranks, Bryant will only get more opportunities to star as a scorer. With his 6’10” length and improving shooting touch, he’ll be a fearsome matchup even as a collegian.
Stock: Lifting off
13. Carlton Bragg
Few players would benefit more from a strong showing in the latest round of AAU events than Carlton Bragg.
The explosive big man lost a chunk of his junior year of high school to a foot injury, and he’d love to show college coaches that his medical issues are in the past.
A double-double against the GR Storm on Saturday (even in defeat) looks like a fine start for Bragg, but he'll need to keep it up.
The more he plays, the better chances are that his fundamentals (especially on offense) will catch up to his prodigious athleticism and defensive instincts.
12. Jaylen Brown
After missing much of his sophomore year with a broken ankle, Jaylen Brown put together a complete junior season in more ways than one. The playmaking forward put his Wheeler High team in Georgia’s state title game, showing no ill effects from the injury.
The 6’6” Brown is looking even more impressive as the AAU season opens, lighting up Texas Select for 37 points and 15 boards in Dallas.
He's also a terrific frontcourt playmaker, even if he's not quite in Kyle Anderson's league just yet.
11. Charles Matthews
Charles Matthews, the only commit so far in Kentucky’s 2015 recruiting class, fits a familiar mold for coach John Calipari.
Slashing 2-guards who are better from the mid-range than from beyond the arc have enjoyed great success in Lexington, and Matthews is set to join that lineage. He’ll also have help, in all probability, from a familiar point guard.
Tyler Ulis, who arrives at UK as a freshman this fall, played with Matthews on the AAU circuit. With Andrew Harrison returning to run the point for next season's Wildcats, Ulis will still be around when Matthews arrives in 2015.
10. Malachi Richardson
Even the best shooters can have an off game, but they’ll come back and forget about it the next time they step on the floor.
That’s the kind of short memory Malachi Richardson showed last Saturday, when he struggled in the first of a pair of AAU scrimmages only to light up the scoreboard in the second.
The 6’6” guard does most of his damage with a well-honed jump shot, but he also knows how to play a bit of defense. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to prove it at the next level, where he’s committed to joining Jim Boeheim’s legendary 2-3 zone at Syracuse.
Stock: Inching up
9. Elijah Thomas
Bruising big man Elijah Thomas has already shown how valuable a rebounder he can be. Unfortunately, he won't get to show any of it during this spring's EYBL season.
The 6'9" Texan is projected to miss his Texas Elite squad's entire schedule after undergoing surgery for a torn tendon in his finger. For a player whose strong hands are a major part of his appeal, that's not the way to head into his senior year.
8. Skal Labissiere
Like the other stars on this list, Skal Labissiere’s game is far ahead of what most high school juniors can hope for. Unfortunately, he’s also gotten an early start on suffering serious injuries, losing most of his junior campaign to a stress fracture in his spine.
The spring AAU circuit gave Labissiere his first chance to show off his recovery in game action, and the results were decidedly encouraging.
Assuming his health woes are behind him, the 6’10” shot-blocker can continue developing his deceptively strong face-up game on offense.
7. Cheick Diallo
Cheick Diallo is a devastating shot-blocker who hasn't contributed much on the other end of the floor. In his EYBL opener for Team Scan, though, he piled up 20 of his team's 54 points in a convincing win over CIA Bounce.
His team couldn't continue the momentum in its next game, but Diallo himself added another team leading 16-point total to his ledger. If he can keep up that level of offensive play to go with his already imposing D, the 6'9" power forward will really be on to something.
6. Tyler Dorsey
UConn-bound teammate Daniel Hamilton won’t be around to steal his thunder anymore, so Tyler Dorsey’s reputation is only going to grow next season.
The 6’4” combo guard has already established himself as a winner, pairing with Hamilton to bring St. John Bosco its first-ever California state championship.
Dorsey’s ability to share the spotlight with other big-time talent will serve him well as a collegian, as he’s committed to joining Sean Miller’s always loaded Arizona roster.
The Wildcats, for their part, aren’t likely to complain about adding a productive playmaker who can also put plenty of points on the board himself.
5. Stephen Zimmerman
As Scott Phillips of College Basketball Talk writes of him, Stephen Zimmerman “is just starting to figure out his overall game.” That doesn’t bode well for opponents once the 7’0” southpaw adds some experience.
Zimmerman is most comfortable in the high post, where he can use his exceptional passing ability to full advantage.
That said, his low-post game is gaining ground fast, and it’s hard to imagine him failing to develop as a senior while playing for the Bishop Gorman program that produced Shabazz Muhammad.
Stock: Creeping up
4. Diamond Stone
Improbable name aside, it’s Diamond Stone’s improbable size that has the recruiters calling. The 6’10”, 240-pound center is already built for college post play with a year of high school yet to go.
He’s also showing he knows how to make the most of his build, blowing up in his Young Legends AAU team's opener at the Jayhawk Invitational.
Stone's 36-point, 16-board outburst led (unsurprisingly) to a win over One Nation and left little doubt as to whether Stone belongs at his lofty position in the early recruiting rankings.
3. Malik Newman
Malik Newman’s spring AAU campaign opened under bizarre circumstances, with a quirk of the scheduling rules forcing a shortened clock for his Mo Williams Academy squad's opener.
Although Newman and company came out on the wrong side of the 35-23 final score, Newman himself made quite an impression on the scouts and coaches who were (as usual) glued to his team.
He doesn’t have great size at this stage (6’3”, 175 lbs), but Newman’s ability to score from anywhere has him at the top of everyone’s backcourt wish list. He’s also shown some capacity for running the point, giving him more flexibility than many natural 2-guards.
Stock: Revving up
2. Ben Simmons
A recent import to the States, Australian-born Ben Simmons hasn’t taken long to get acclimated.
He won MVP honors at the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals, starring for the same Montverde Academy team that produced 2013-14 college standouts Dakari Johnson and Kasey Hill.
Those two SEC sophomores-to-be will be facing Simmons if they stay in school, as the high-scoring PF is committed to LSU. In addition to his scoring instincts, he’s noted for his basketball IQ (no surprise from the son of a former Australian league star).
1. Ivan Rabb
Ivan Rabb is the most talked about prospect on a loaded Oakland Soldiers AAU team, but he hasn't exactly blown away the coaches watching Sacramento's EYBL action.
The 6'9" forward has a pedestrian 28 points in two games, and his team has a 1-1 record to show for it.
Rabb has been more impressive on the glass, leading his squad with a combined 14 boards, but his usual shot-blocking acumen hasn't made an appearance.
He may not be hurting his cause with his performance this spring, but he certainly hasn't done much to help himself, either.